9 vie for seats on Washington Co. Board of Education

Nathan Baker • May 13, 2014 at 11:27 PM

Nine Washington County Board of Education candidates are vying for six seats in the First and Third districts this summer in the county General Election.

The school board hopefuls are five incumbents and four newcomers.

Three of those new faces are running in the Third District, where current board Vice Chairman William Brinkley announced he will not seek re-election, leaving his seat wide open.

“To be honest with you, a lot of stuff changed at work, I’ve been traveling more, and I was afraid I could end up missing board meetings,” Brinkley said Tuesday. “I didn’t think that was appropriate for someone elected to represent the people in my district.”

Brinkley was appointed to his seat in 2009, then won it in the election the following year.

A surprising revelation for him, he said, was learning how much of the district’s operations were dictated by state regulations and how little control the local officials actually have.

In the First District, Keith Ervin is hoping to gain a third term.

The self-employed dairy and tobacco farmer is a graduate of David Crockett High School, where his two daughters are currently students.

During his eight years on the board, Ervin said he was proud to be part of the efforts to build Grandview and Ridgeview elementary schools and to renovate the county’s two high schools, David Crockett and Daniel Boone.

The district still has “a few issues that need to be tweaked,” which can be traced back to finances, he said, and the board will soon need to decide whether to renovate schools in Boones Creek and Jonesborough or to build new facilities in those communities.

Jack Leonard, another First District incumbent, is finishing up his first term this year.

Like Ervin, Leonard graduated from Crockett, then went on to East Tennessee State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a teaching degree. He received a master’s in education from Tusculum College and holds a specialist degree in education from ETSU.

Leonard is currently employed by the Johnson City School System as a gap-closure coordinator and an IB coordinator at Science Hill High School.

Jack and his wife, Jill, have three boys in the Washington County School System.

Current BOE Chairman Chad Williams said he hopes to be granted a third term by voters so he can continue to guide the district’s growth, namely in the Boones Creek and Jonesborough areas, where Johnson City’s potential for expansion is a concern.

“We have facilities in need of upgrade or new building, dependent on the city’s annexation,” Williams said. The board voted to go with new K-8 schools in those areas, and I think it’s a good step and I’m trying to see it happen.”

Williams and his wife will see their twin daughters graduate from David Crockett this weekend and head off to Milligan College in the summer.

The new challenger running in the First District, Annette Buchanan, is no stranger to the operations of the county district.

After graduating from David Crockett, she attained an education degree from ETSU and taught in Washington County for seven years before leaving the job to become a stay-at-home mom.

She and her husband, Mike, now have three children, and in the next two years, one will start high school and another will begin kindergarten.

If elected to the board, Buchanan said she aims to make sure the needs of students and their teachers are put first and to ensure consistency for the district’s pupils and employees.

“A big part of a child’s life is school, ... that’s where the consistency comes in, that’s why keeping things consistent is important,” she said. “We need to be hiring well-educated teachers in our county and supporting those that are already doing a good job.”

In the Third District, David Hammond is hoping to recapture the seat he was elected to serve four years ago.

Hammond, the only candidate that didn’t graduate from a Washington County school, received his diploma at Unicoi County High School.

He attended ETSU before graduating from the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit institute dedicated to research and education in the field of gemology and the jewelry arts.

Hammond and his wife, Kelly, own and operate a commercial apartment rental company and have been active in the district’s parent-teacher organizations.

Their two daughters attend Boones Creek Elementary and Daniel Boone High schools.

Clarence “Coach” Mabe is the longest-serving member seeking re-election this year.

He was first elected in 2002, then again in 2006 and 2010.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ETSU, Mabe was employed by the Washington County district, teaching physical education and coaching boys basketball and baseball at Fall Branch High School and girls basketball and baseball at Daniel Boone.

He retired from teaching and is now part-owner of S & M Amusements in Gray.

Mabe has two sons with his wife, Cookie, both of which graduated from Daniel Boone High School.

Todd Hull is one of the three new candidates in the Third District seeking spots on the board.

He is currently an assistant district attorney in Northeast Tennessee, and he and his wife, Rita, have two children attending Washington County schools.

Hull holds three degrees from Walters State, ETSU and Nashville School of Law, and has 22 years of experience working in the legal system.

“As you can tell from my history, I think education is very important, and I’ve always been involved in the community,” he said. “Running for the school board is something I’ve wanted to do for about five years, because I wanted to be more involved in my children’s education.”

For Hull, school safety is a major issue, and he said if elected, he will work to ensure the district’s schools are properly equipped and staffed to handle emergencies.

In the Boones Creek area, he said constructive dialogue between the county district and Johnson City is needed to make sure money used to either build a new school or to renovate existing buildings isn’t wasted.

Real estate broker Mike Masters said his wife Kim, a secretary at Daniel Boone, gives him better insight into the district.

After 18 years of her employment by the district, Masters said instructional assistants and teachers are underpaid, and he wants to give them much-needed raises.

“They still get very little pay, but without them, it would be very hard for the school to operate,” he said.

Masters, a graduate of Tri-Cities Technical Institute before it was renamed Northeast State Community College, also said he plans to emphasize and enhance vocational training at the district’s schools.

Masters works for Green Commercial Realty, and all three of his children graduated from Daniel Boone.

The final candidate, Scott Utsman, is another lifelong Washington Countian.

After graduating from Daniel Boone, he attended ETSU and has worked at Eastman since 1992.

A resident of Sulphur Springs, Utsman has three children with his wife, Carol, who all attend county schools.

Utsman said he doesn’t have any particular agenda in running for the board, but he wants to “make the best decisions for the kids and administrators and make the Washington County School System the best place to work and study.”

Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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